Ending the stigma around addiction needs to be more than just a slogan: it requires a serious commitment from leaders at all levels of government. That’s why I have made this work central to my first year in office.
Last year, my administration launched a Substance Use Disorder Initiatives office for the City of Revere, increasing our capacity to provide help and support to individuals and families struggling with drug use. We are one of the only cities in the Commonwealth with an office dedicated to this work.
Each week, the SUD office assembles an outreach team with includes police, fire, recovery coaches, and medical professionals. They knock on the doors of those who have been identified as having experienced a recent overdose, in order to connect them with resources and support.
The new office includes expanded drop-in center hours on Tuesday nights from 5-8 PM, with social workers, public safety officials and health professionals offering residents, family members and friends a supportive space to seek help for those in need. Additionally, residents can reach out to the SUD office at any time via phone, email or social media to get Narcan or learn more about available services.
Our efforts have been effective. Initial reports show that overdose calls in Revere went down 24% in 2016. Last year, narcan use saved 87 precious lives in Revere by reversing overdoses. These are good first steps, but we must do more.
SUD staff is working on increasing their social media presence, and creating an advertising campaign that gets into shops, restaurants, health care providers and convenience stores to make sure all residents who may be in need of services know what is available to them.
To be even more effective in our battle against addiction we must start in our schools. This year, we will secure funding to pilot a school-based strategy that will educate our middle schoolers about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
My administration has convened a Substance Use Disorders leadership team consisting of city staff, police, fire, the school department, medical providers, and members of the recovery community. This leadership team will help serve as a steering committee for the SUD office and inform the work that they do moving forward.
We are studying best practices of other communities, so that we can learn from their successes and their mistakes. Cities and towns across the Commonwealth are developing innovative approaches to improve collaboration between nonprofits, medical professionals, and city departments, as they work to identify at-risk individuals and intervene with support.
In 2017, we will continue to enhance our city’s efforts to save lives from addiction, and we will send a message loud and clear to all Revere families struggling with this crisis: we are here to support you.